When a living tree or branch is cut down it will have a very high moisture content and the wood is almost impossible to light, and even if you can light it, it will not burn well. Seasoned wood has been stored in a dry place and allowed to dry naturally so it will burn well without all the fizzing, spitting and soot. You need to buy pre-seasoned logs for your fire, unless you want to season them yourself, which you can do if you can dry store pre-cut logs for at least 6 months. Wood is generally considered to be seasoned (for burning purposes) when its moisture content has dropped to 20% or less. Cut wood may have a moisture content as high as 60% but will very quickly drop to around 30% as water evaporates naturally. However, to be suitable for burning it will need to be dry stored for ‘a season’ to naturally reach less than 20%.
Seasoned wood can be stored outdoors if it is stacked, covered and sheltered from the elements and it can then be used directly on the fire or stove. The moisture content ought not to rise while stored outdoors unless it gets wet. You can also buy kiln dried wood, but this could be a false economy if you are to store it outside for long periods since the moisture content will eventually become the same as any other seasoned wood stored outside. Kiln drying is a rapid drying technique where the outside of the wood can have a moisture content as low as 10% but the centre of the wood might still be 20% (or more if the logs were not small enough when dried). Genuine kiln dried logs will generally burn more intensely, but are expensive because of the cost of running the drying kilns. If well seasoned wood is it taken into a warm indoor enviornment for a few days before burning you will likely get most of the benefit of kiln dried wood anyway.
So how do you know if a log is well seasoned? The simple answer it to use a moisture meter and make sure that the logs are aleady split as the moisture can be higher inside large logs (where you cannot measure it). The meter measures electrical resistance between two probes which is determined by the the material properties and by its moisture content. Note that a builders meter designed for measuring mositure in stone will give an incorrect reading if used for wood (since the materials have different electrical properties). Many meters can be set for different materials and customers have sometimes been intentionally misled by readings when the wrong setting is being used – so do be aware of this malpractice.
Needless to say all of Arb-Tech’s firewood is pre-seasoned. This winter the typical reading was 18.5% and ready to go straight on your fire.